Having spent about half my adult life in East Tennessee and half in Western North Carolina, I’m occasionally asked which place I like better. This is akin to asking me which of my seven-year-old twin grandkids—a boy and a girl—I love more. I assure you I love them equally, though they’re different in many ways.
Often, I tell people that when I’m in Western North Carolina, I miss East Tennessee’s rolling hills, and when I’m in East Tennessee, I miss Western North Carolina’s high mountains.
Unable to live in two places at once but chiefly to be near our grand-twins, Margo and I chose Haywood County, NC, for our retirement. Haywood County has 13 mountains over 6,000 feet, the most of any county east of the Rockies.
Whether hiking around Lake Junaluska (the community where we live), driving through the mountain hollers, or sitting on our cottage’s front porch, I’m fortunate to be able to enjoy, and marvel, at the majesty of these mountains that so many authors and poets have written about.
But, oh! How I miss East Tennessee’s rolling hills. And, as they say, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” You see, Haywood County has very little flat land of any kind and no rolling hills.
Fortunately, Haywood County to Washington County, Tennessee, is under two hours. On my frequent trips across Sam’s Gap, I seldom take a direct route to my destination, and the same on my return, giving me time to embrace one of the most beautiful places on earth.
East Tennessee’s beauty is accentuated during hay-mowing time. Seems I’m always humming “America the Beautiful” as I pass fields of hay bales with the Unaka Mountains as the backdrop.
Besides geography, another difference between East Tennessee and Western North Carolina is people. Not that one tribe is better than the other, but just like those twins, they’re different. East Tennesseans are more open and readily accepting of others than Western North Carolina natives, of which I am one.
It’s difficult for me to believe that I first opened the microphone at WJCW radio over forty years ago, April 1977, to sign on the station from its new Gray studios! On my first show, I mentioned that my family wouldn’t be moving to the area until school was out. I would be “batching it” for several months.
Before the end of that day, at least a dozen people had called, inviting me to eat supper with them! “What kind of people are these?” I thought. “Are they trying to scam me? Nobody invites someone they don’t know to their house for supper.” Being a backwoods Western North Carolinian, I politely refused the invitations to eat in the homes of total strangers.
But it didn’t take long for East Tennessee folks to win me over. The first person to call that very first day was the late Amos Hall, a prominent member of the Gray community. I eventually suppered in his home and he became a great friend.
At the first remote broadcast I did, I was amazed at the numbers of listeners who came to welcome me to the area. It wasn’t long until I was dining with folks in Lamar, Conklin, Chuckey, Harmony, and many other communities in Washington County. Many of these folks became lifelong friends.
A word in defense of Western North Carolinians, including myself! A mountaineer also would become a trusted lifelong friend after he’d spent an extended period getting to know you—months, maybe years. But he’d never call and ask you to supper the first time he heard you on the radio!
How blessed I am to have our twin grandkids and the twin regions of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina to love. And to have them love me back.
After 57 years in the radio industry, Dave Hogan is enjoying his retirement in North Carolina. He’d love for you to say ‘howdy’ to him via email firstname.lastname@example.org.